Best-selling journalist Antony Loewenstein trav­els across Afghanistan, Pakistan, Haiti, Papua New Guinea, the United States, Britain, Greece, and Australia to witness the reality of disaster capitalism. He discovers how companies such as G4S, Serco, and Halliburton cash in on or­ganized misery in a hidden world of privatized detention centers, militarized private security, aid profiteering, and destructive mining.

Disaster has become big business. Talking to immigrants stuck in limbo in Britain or visiting immigration centers in America, Loewenstein maps the secret networks formed to help cor­porations bleed what profits they can from economic crisis. He debates with Western contractors in Afghanistan, meets the locals in post-earthquake Haiti, and in Greece finds a country at the mercy of vulture profiteers. In Papua New Guinea, he sees a local commu­nity forced to rebel against predatory resource companies and NGOs.

What emerges through Loewenstein’s re­porting is a dark history of multinational corpo­rations that, with the aid of media and political elites, have grown more powerful than national governments. In the twenty-first century, the vulnerable have become the world’s most valu­able commodity. Disaster Capitalism is published by Verso in 2015.

Profits_of_doom_cover_350Vulture capitalism has seen the corporation become more powerful than the state, and yet its work is often done by stealth, supported by political and media elites. The result is privatised wars and outsourced detention centres, mining companies pillaging precious land in developing countries and struggling nations invaded by NGOs and the corporate dollar. Best-selling journalist Antony Loewenstein travels to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Haiti, Papua New Guinea and across Australia to witness the reality of this largely hidden world of privatised detention centres, outsourced aid, destructive resource wars and militarized private security. Who is involved and why? Can it be stopped? What are the alternatives in a globalised world? Profits of Doom, published in 2013 and released in an updated edition in 2014, challenges the fundamentals of our unsustainable way of life and the money-making imperatives driving it. It is released in an updated edition in 2014.
forgodssakecover Four Australian thinkers come together to ask and answer the big questions, such as: What is the nature of the universe? Doesn't religion cause most of the conflict in the world? And Where do we find hope?   We are introduced to different belief systems – Judaism, Christianity, Islam – and to the argument that atheism, like organised religion, has its own compelling logic. And we gain insight into the life events that led each author to their current position.   Jane Caro flirted briefly with spiritual belief, inspired by 19th century literary heroines such as Elizabeth Gaskell and the Bronte sisters. Antony Loewenstein is proudly culturally, yet unconventionally, Jewish. Simon Smart is firmly and resolutely a Christian, but one who has had some of his most profound spiritual moments while surfing. Rachel Woodlock grew up in the alternative embrace of Baha'i belief but became entranced by its older parent religion, Islam.   Provocative, informative and passionately argued, For God's Sakepublished in 2013, encourages us to accept religious differences, but to also challenge more vigorously the beliefs that create discord.  
After Zionism, published in 2012 and 2013 with co-editor Ahmed Moor, brings together some of the world s leading thinkers on the Middle East question to dissect the century-long conflict between Zionism and the Palestinians, and to explore possible forms of a one-state solution. Time has run out for the two-state solution because of the unending and permanent Jewish colonization of Palestinian land. Although deep mistrust exists on both sides of the conflict, growing numbers of Palestinians and Israelis, Jews and Arabs are working together to forge a different, unified future. Progressive and realist ideas are at last gaining a foothold in the discourse, while those influenced by the colonial era have been discredited or abandoned. Whatever the political solution may be, Palestinian and Israeli lives are intertwined, enmeshed, irrevocably. This daring and timely collection includes essays by Omar Barghouti, Jonathan Cook, Joseph Dana, Jeremiah Haber, Jeff Halper, Ghada Karmi, Antony Loewenstein, Saree Makdisi, John Mearsheimer, Ahmed Moor, Ilan Pappe, Sara Roy and Phil Weiss.
The 2008 financial crisis opened the door for a bold, progressive social movement. But despite widespread revulsion at economic inequity and political opportunism, after the crash very little has changed. Has the Left failed? What agenda should progressives pursue? And what alternatives do they dare to imagine? Left Turn, published by Melbourne University Press in 2012 and co-edited with Jeff Sparrow, is aimed at the many Australians disillusioned with the political process. It includes passionate and challenging contributions by a diverse range of writers, thinkers and politicians, from Larissa Berendht and Christos Tsiolkas to Guy Rundle and Lee Rhiannon. These essays offer perspectives largely excluded from the mainstream. They offer possibilities for resistance and for a renewed struggle for change.
The Blogging Revolution, released by Melbourne University Press in 2008, is a colourful and revelatory account of bloggers around the globe why live and write under repressive regimes - many of them risking their lives in doing so. Antony Loewenstein's travels take him to private parties in Iran and Egypt, internet cafes in Saudi Arabia and Damascus, to the homes of Cuban dissidents and into newspaper offices in Beijing, where he discovers the ways in which the internet is threatening the ruld of governments. Through first-hand investigations, he reveals the complicity of Western multinationals in assisting the restriction of information in these countries and how bloggers are leading the charge for change. The blogging revolution is a superb examination about the nature of repression in the twenty-first century and the power of brave individuals to overcome it. It was released in an updated edition in 2011, post the Arab revolutions, and an updated Indian print version in 2011.
The best-selling book on the Israel/Palestine conflict, My Israel Question - on Jewish identity, the Zionist lobby, reporting from Palestine and future Middle East directions - was released by Melbourne University Press in 2006. A new, updated edition was released in 2007 (and reprinted again in 2008). The book was short-listed for the 2007 NSW Premier's Literary Award. Another fully updated, third edition was published in 2009. It was released in all e-book formats in 2011. An updated and translated edition was published in Arabic in 2012.

Haiti’s economic model failing to help its people

My weekly Guardian column is published below:

Haiti in the fog.
Urban botox: the painted slums of Jalousie. Photograph: Antony Loewenstein

The mood in Port au Prince’s flashiest hotel was cautiously optimistic. A business conference was held this January at the Karibe Hotel with a range of local and international businesspeople. Called Restore Haiti, the event was held more than four years after the devastating 2010 earthquake that left the capital in ruins and killed up to 200,000 people. There, delegates heard about the myriad of ways to make money in the Caribbean nation.

One of the first speakers was George Andy Rene, managing director of the official body Investment Facilitation Centre. He repeated the popular government mantra since taking office in 2011: “Haiti is open for business”. “We need to counter the negative image of Haiti in the global media”, he said. However, Texan Christian entrepreneur Fred Eppright, of Bridge Capital, issued a blunt warning: the international image of Haiti remains dire and in desperate need of improvement. By all means support Haiti, he argued, but be aware of the risks.

A dynamic and increasingly thriving Haiti is one the US-backed government wants the world to see. President Michel Martelly and prime minister Laurent Lamothe, whose faces are plastered across billboards and propaganda material throughout the country, are close to the Obama administration and have benefitted from their association withHillary Clinton when she was secretary of state. For example, some industrial parks were built thanks to US funds; the much-heralded one in the north of Haiti, at Caracol, has fallen far short of official expectations.

This doesn’t stop the US from continuing to push the tired and failing economic model of low paying textile factories to fill the stores of its own country; after decades of advocating the same ideas, without success, it shows the weakness of the Haiti state that its leaders continue to agree to it.

A child in one of Haiti's slum.
A child in one of Haiti’s slum. Photograph: Antony Loewenstein

After the 2010 earthquake, billions of dollars from across the world were pledged to the country and yet the vast bulk of this money never reached Haiti, remaining in the pockets of inefficient foreign contractors. As I documented in my 2013 book Profits of Doom, Haiti has suffered both decades of brutal dictatorship and Washington-based policies that alienated workers, slashed wages and cemented permanent poverty.

I returned to Haiti in January with New York film-maker Thor Neureiter to film footage for a documentary about disaster capitalism. I wanted to see what progress, if any, has occurred in the last years and how ordinary people are coping with endemic deprivation. Are they gaining from the government’s aggressive pro-business approach? Although there are undoubtedly signs of progress, including new housing, a modern airport and a private university, the vast bulk of citizens never experience any of it and told me government services are invisible to them.

Haiti is a nation that exists on two levels. Five percent of the country’s population owns the vast bulk of the nation’s wealth. The capital has a number of expensive hotels for the country’s elite, westerners and rich tourists. Attending the closing night of the Port au Prince International Jazz Festival, I saw a sea of expats, diplomats and wealthy Haitians partying in style. It felt like I was a million miles from the sea of shanty towns a few kilometres away, where hundreds of thousands of people live in tents. It’s hard to blindly celebrate knowing this stark fact.

Sexual assault and rape are key problems in Haiti’s slums. NGO KOFAVIV is a leading female-run organisation aiming to tackle it. The founders, Eramithe and Malya, lost their homes in the 2010 earthquake and lived for a time in a tent city. Today, they have countless men and women working in the camps to raise awareness of a rape hotline, counseling and women’s empowerment. Support from international donors is waning, with many looking for fresher disasters to assist. The lack of long-term funding and infrastructure is a constant complaint amongst a range of local charities and organisations. “The world remembers us only when we’re desperate, then moves on” is a refrain I heard a number of times.

Malya told me that there’s still a social silence around sexual assault in Haiti but that “the last years have seen authorities, including the police, starting to take the crimes more seriously.” One day I walked around the Kid refugee camp in the Christ Roi area of Port au Prince with KOFAVIV’s Georjhy. Thousands of citizens have been forgotten in this squalid area, remaining here for more than four years. KOFAVIV’s male and female agents walked across the dirty ground to distribute pamphlets and information to young women, telling them that they have rights, pointing out that they have somebody to call if in trouble, promising a sympathetic ear. It’s deceptively simple, but it’s a very effective tool for activists to use on the ground.

Activists in Haiti
KOFAVIV activists talking to civilian women. Photograph: Antony Loewenstein

When the United Nations allegedly brought cholera to Haiti in 2010, killing thousands of people – a plague that the international body does not acknowledge to this day – it seemed that the nation was doomed (the UN, aside from the military component, is also conducing a number of useful projects in the country).

But here and there, hope lives. Jerry Rosembert Moise is one of Haiti’s most provocative graffiti artists. His work appears across the country, including on walls in the exclusive Port au Prince suburb of Pétionville. He comments on the failing government, lack of opportunities for the youth and excessive and wasteful US aid. “We’re all looking for a better future”, he said to me.

One late night he found a bare wall and with a few cars passing by, started spraying a new artwork showing two men with their hands in each other pockets stealing money. It was, he told me, representative of modern Haiti, “a country where we all need to find a way to make a living and get ahead.”

Graffiti in Petionville
Jerry Rosembert Moise working on a graffiti in Pétionville. Photograph: Antony Loewenstein

Like I found in Papua New Guinea in late 2012 – another country ruthlessly exploited by outside powers for the benefit of foreign corporations – Haiti regularly sees a new coat of paint slapped on its face to hide the grime. The sprawling slum of Jalousie, the terraced area in Port au Prince, was painted in a multitude of colours, “urban botox” style, to give a better view for the guests at a new upmarket hotel. That’s one way to view progress.

Although I saw a range of private and government programs attempting to provide better housing and employment opportunities for Haitians on this trip – for example, a Haitian-made tablet device by Surtab is an intriguing opportunity – the neo-liberal, exploitative economic model currently being imposed on the nation has failed many times before and leaves millions of citizens, many of whom I met and heard, in a state of despair and daily desperation.

• For a collection of Antony Loewenstein’s photos from Haiti, see here.

no comments – be the first ↪